A Better Way

“A simple approach to assuring more nutritious foods is for pantries to specifically ask that donors provide them—items like whole wheat pastas, brown rice, low-sugar cereals and canned foods that are low in salt, sugar and saturated fats. But Antine has a more radical solution. “We need to think of a different food model,” she says, citing as an example her relationship with the Franciscan center, which buys nutritious ingredients—things like lentils, carrots and onions—and delivers them to Antine and her team of volunteers, who then turn them into a nutritious soup. “The pantries are important,” she says, “but I’d love to see a Bergen County community kitchen, where the raw ingredients come in, we get volunteers to cook and then the meals are sent, frozen, to the pantries.” In the meantime, her HealthBarn Foundation is using two grants totaling $3 million from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to buy meals from the county’s restaurants and distribute them to the pantries. Nutrition is uppermost among the project’s requirements. “If they want to participate,” says Antine, “they have to provide a protein, a vegetable and a starch—no pasta and vodka sauce.”

Like virtually all the programs in Bergen working to address the county’s food insecurity problem, the HealthBarn’s effort depends on volunteers. The good news is that, if you want to get involved, there are plenty of ways to help relieve food insecurity and provide good nutrition for all.

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